Like many of you, I grew up thinking that being a hero was always good. Case in point: In every episode of The Adventures of Superman, the bad guys busily hatched nefarious plots to set loose upon the planet, but ultimately Superman always prevailed. In the IT world, nothing could be further from the truth: Heroes stand in the way of maturing an IT organization! Let me explain using a help desk example:

Despite anyone’s best efforts, IT customers will always have questions or need something, and IT systems will always run into issues. As an IT organization grows, there comes a time when the volume of calls for help becomes large enough to necessitate establishing a formal help desk with the goal of simply answering customer inquiries to prevent them from calling technical resources directly. In this environment, help desk analysts often take on heroic proportions merely by answering complaints and fixing IT things that break.

But there are a few troubling aspects to this.

  1. Based upon the kinds of repetitive calls the analysts field, they develop a “tribal” knowledge that lives only in their heads of how to satisfy the needs of the customer.
  2. One analyst’s “solution” might be different from another’s.
  3. The “solution” might not ultimately be the correct one or follow the proper process.

The result is little to no standardization or documentation because every analyst is focused on, and praised for, being a hero.

The superhero help desk scenario would probably land the IT organization somewhere below a level 1.5 on TransAccel Group’s Maturity Model. While this kind of hero-driven help desk might seem effective in the short term, it can’t possibly scale to meet the challenges of increased business demand, more complexity or greater economic pressures (costs). In order to meet those challenges, a help desk needs to transform itself into a service desk and banish the hero mentality!

Transforming from operating as a help desk to a service desk means shifting from being individual-centric and ad hoc to business-centric and strategic; from relying upon tribal knowledge to leveraging a knowledge-base of standard solutions; from being a self-made jack-of-all-trades to being a professional who knows how to get issues resolved; and from minimizing customer “noise” to measuring customer satisfaction.

While it sounds like common sense, it will take discipline and rigor to implement. The discipline comes in the form of program and project management, and the rigor in the form of a standards-based framework (we recommend ITIL) coupled with an ongoing measurement and analytics function. Once implemented, your service desk analysts will have tools at their disposal in the form of checklists, decision trees, and a comprehensive knowledge base to ensure that either a customer’s question is answered or the issue is routed to the proper person to resolve. Once the transformation is complete, IT maturity will move closer to level 2.5.